Here is a story collection about love, death, humor, and the glue called family. In one narrative, a man wakes up one morning to find the odor of dead fish won't go away, but no one else can smell it. In another, a couple's visit with friends to watch the Academy Awards has the protagonist envying his friends' lawn and lifestyle. In these and 11 other stories, Christopher Meeks balances tragedy and wit. As novelist David Scott Milton explains, "In this collection, Christopher Meeks examines the small heartbreaks of quiet despair that are so much a part of all our lives. He does it in language that is resonant, poetic, and precise.... If you like Raymond Carver, you'll love Meeks. He may be as good - or better."
©2006 Christopher Meeks (P)2016 Christopher Meeks
Relationships are at the center of each of these stories. They will make you think about your own life, the people that you know, and what each of them might encounter in their day-to-day lives.
Each of these stories is an extremely real slice of life. They are very well-written, and the characters are so genuine that it is almost scary. I can see any of the events in these stories actually taking place.
These story lines and characters get inside your head, and they won’t leave. They tug at your deep inner emotions. Thought provoking and gut wrenching, they are stories that you will never forget.
My husband, a truck driver, listened to these stories from beginning to end with no break between them. His advice would be not to listen to them when you are tired. He agrees with me that the stories are very well-written and that Mr. Meeks is a very talented writer. But if literary fiction is not what you are used to reading or listening to, there is a chance that these stories will depress you. At the same time, they are impossible to pull yourself away from.
“Academy Award Afternoon and Evening” – A small gathering to watch the Academy Awards causes one man to wonder just how well do we know those we associate with and claim as friends.
“Green River” – Witness to a disintegrating relationship, one man’s viewing of total sadness causes him to think back on his own troubled marriage. All the while, his son is extolling the virtues of chocolate.
No matter what is going on in our own lives, the world and all of its problems are still out there continuing on.
“The Middle-Aged Man and the Sea” – During a fishing trip, a man’s brother-in-law confides to him about his life-threatening issues.
“The Scent” – Where is the bad smell coming from, and why is he the only one who smells it? And this scent follows him wherever he goes.
“Divining” – Health-conscious Ellis, a New Yorker living in Hollywood, is searching for a job. He keeps worrying about electrolytes and cholesterol and sugar. This is the story of a man who is so blinded by what he thinks he wants that he is unable to see that what his true desire is right in front of him. When he does finally realize it, it will it be too late?
“The Rotary” – Sullivan is very close to his grandfather who has always been there to help him, but now he has had a stroke and is dying. The young man imagines his grandfather’s possible past back in 1918 Boston, the time of an influenza epidemic and when America has entered WWI. His grandfather has lived through three generations of politics, college, romance, marriage, and divorce. Will his grandfather be able to help him out this one last time?
“Shooting Funerals” – Vicky is trying to figure out what the right job is for her, and she thinks that a funeral photographer would be perfect. At the funeral of a friend’s grandfather—she was hired to take pictures—things do not go as planned. She has had so much trouble finding a job that works out, but this does lead to success in other parts of her life.
“He’s Home” – Steve, fifty years old and an abuser, comes home to discover a super clean house, but he also discovers all of his wife’s belongings are gone. In a disturbing way, Steve reminds me way too much of my ex-son-in-law.
“Engaging Ben” – Ben and Sarah are engaged. Ben is focused more than he should be on Sarah’s increasing weight and on what he calls her faults. But Ben is not the only one who has changed. How will Sarah react after Ben throws out her chocolate-covered graham crackers?
“Nike Had Nothing to do With It” – A jog in the woods causes unplanned things to happen.
“High Occupancy Vehicle” – This story is about two married couples. Faint but unconfirmed signals of an affair cause the wife of one couple and the husband of the other couple to wonder if their spouses are messing around with each other. But did the one who first spoke of these suspicions have ulterior motives?
“The Fundamentals of Nuclear Dating” – A lonely guy looks for a girlfriend in the local grocery store. Does he succeed in finding her?
“Dear Ma” – Ma is in a wheelchair. She “spaces out”, has “attacks,” and is being cared for by her children. She lives in the past in her head and only has sporadic moments of realization of what time it really is. This story examines the relationship between Ma and her husband, and Ma and her children.
I was sent a free copy of this audiobook in exchange for an honest review. The stories were read by Christopher Meeks. He did a good job reading them, and it was nice to listen to the stories read by the one who had written them. There were a few times I had to verify with him that I understood just what word was being said, but I am a picky reader.
The Audible version is narrated by the author, Christopher Meeks, himself. It includes 13 quintessential short stories about the human condition. With his trademark sense of humor and quirky, yet realistic characters, Meeks takes us on a journey through the lives of his characters and we even a glimpse into ourselves.
Many people who claim not to like short stories, usually say because they don't feel complete. I dare naysayers of Short stories to read this book. Okay, so the endings aren't wrapped up in nice neat bows but neither is real life. "They all lived happily ever after" are the kind of stories we tell children to make them feel safe and secure.
These stories have kernels of truth hidden within them. They cover, marriage, middle age, and old age. The thread throughout is human relationships and how we dealt with them. Of course, this wouldn't be a Christopher Meeks book, if there weren't some references to pop culture sprinkled with in.
Usually, I find short stories in a collection hit and miss however, 'The Middle-aged Man and the Sea', is quite an even collection. I really loved them all.
As for the narration, it was good. There were a few places that you could hear the wetness that can accumulate in ones mouth. I haven't detected this when I have listened to a more seasoned narrator. However, with practice, I believe Christoper Meeks could go from good to great with his narration skills. I hope he records more of his books.
I received a free download code for the Audible version for my honest review.
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